Manchester University has honoured K-RITH’s Dr Frederick Balagaddé with a Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award.

Balagaddé, who heads up K-RITH’s Bioengineering Laboratory, received the award on October 23 at a banquet held at Manchester University, which is based in Indiana, USA.

The university says the award recognises alumni with “ability and conviction”. Criteria for it include demonstrating outstanding leadership and contributing to the betterment of the community.

“This award was based on the work we are doing at K-RITH and it is very humbling to see that our work is being honoured and is gaining such recognition,” said Dr Balagaddé.

Balagaddé graduated from Manchester in 2001 with degrees in physics and computer science. He went on to invent the micro-chemostat, a microfabricated fluidic chip that mimics a biological cell culture environment, while doing his PhD in applied physics at the California Institute of Technology. Caltech was named the World’s Top University in 2015 by the London-based Times Higher Education global ranking of the top 200 universities.

Through a series of solution-driven engineering projects, Dr Balagaddé’s lab at K-RITH is continuing this work. They are developing high-throughput research platforms and scalable diagnostic systems, called microfluidic systems, which are aimed at providing low-cost, sample-in-answer-out disease diagnostic devices to address the HIV and TB epidemics.

Simply put, microfluidics is a technology which automates experiments that would usually require a whole team of biologists to perform in a lab, at a fraction of the price. The technology is of particular value in southern Africa because it is so portable – and can provide world class, modern and large-scale diagnostics even in the most remote areas where healthcare facilities may be rudimentary.